Back to School Immune Support

Back to School Immune Support

I can’t believe it’s back to school time already! The fall/ winter months are notorious for viral and bacterial illnesses. Unfortunately, many over the counter cold medicines are designed for adults and may be unsafe for kids. Here are my top 3 supplement recommendations for keeping your kids healthy. I’ll also include a recipe for an immune-boosting soup at the end of the newsletter.
Here’s to a healthy, productive school year!


1) Vitamin D:
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for immune function and because it is primarily made in the skin as a result of sun exposure and dietary sources are few, it’s not uncommon for people living in colder climates to be deficient in Vitamin D. In fact, it is thought that many common infections may predominate in the winter simply because many of us are deficient in Vitamin D when UV exposure is so low. Vitamin D reduces inflammation and increases antimicrobial defenses in the body.
Many (though not all) studies have shown that Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) and that Vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk of getting an URTI and reduces the duration and severity of an infection if you do get one.
The Recommended Daily Intake of Vitamin D for children is 400IU. Most experts believe this dosage to be too low. I tend to be conservative in my recommendations of Vitamin D since it is a fat-soluble nutrient and therefore can, in theory, cause toxicity.
I recommend maintenance dose of 800IU of Vitamin D for young children and between 1000 and 1500IU in older children. Higher amounts would be necessary if your child is deficient.


2) Probiotics:
A disproportionate percentage of the body’s immune system is located in the gut! It’s called the Gut- Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT) and it’s the body’s largest mass of lymphoid tissue. It’s one of our primary defenses against outside invaders.
A 2015 Cochrane Review found that probiotics were effective in reducing the risk of an upper respiratory tract infection, reducing its duration, and reducing absences of school and need for antibiotics.
There are a plethora of products on the market and quality can be a problem. A multi-strain probiotic with a high number of colony forming units (CFUs) is ideal. My recommendation is Klaire Labs Therbiotic Children’s Chewable. It contains 25 billion CFUs of multiple beneficial strains of bacteria and, above all, tastes great!


3) Elderberry:
Elderberry is an immune booster which has shown activity equivalent to Tamiflu (the conventional medication) in the treatment of flu infections. Elderberry has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anti-cancer properties. There’s some evidence that compounds in its flowers and berries reduce inflammation in the sinuses and help to relieve sinus congestion.
Elderberry is loaded with antioxidants, it tastes great, and is very safe.
A favorite product of mine is Sinupret syrup for kids (I use it in adults too!). It is a combination herbal product containing elderberry which has been found to increase our natural immune defenses and relieve nasal and sinus congestion. I use it four times a day at the indicated dosage as soon as I think I may be coming down with a cold.


Mechanical flushing:
A few studies have found that gargling with water and using a nasal rinse can both reduce the risk of contracting an URTI and can shorten its duration if we do get sick. Simply gargling morning and night (more if you feel that you’re getting sick) and using a nasal saline rinse (I recommend the Xlear products) can be helpful in addition to teaching your kids to wash their hands!


Immune Boosting Soup (adapted from Dr. Andrew Weil):
8 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
4-8 cloves garlic, minced
One 1-inch piece of fresh gingerroot, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup sliced carrots
1 slice dried astragalus root (available at Asian markets or Whole Foods)
1 cup shiitake mushrooms (fresh or dried and reconstituted), sliced
1 cup broccoli florets
1.Bring the vegetable broth to a boil in a large pot.
2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the onion, garlic and ginger. Sauté over low heat until soft and aromatic.
3. Add contents of skillet to broth along with carrots, astragalus root, and shiitake mushrooms.
4. Simmer, covered, 1 hour.
5. Add the broccoli flowerets in the last 5 minutes, and remove astragalus before serving.
Serves – 8
Dr. Leat Kuzniar ND
Dr. Leat Kuzniar ND

Dr. Kuzniar is a board member of the New Jersey Association of Naturopathic Physicians and is also a member of the Gastroenterology Association of Naturopathic Physicians. She currently holds a State of Vermont Naturopathic Physician license (as New Jersey does not yet offer licensing for Naturopathic doctors).